Monday, 12 November 2012

Will Africa be the saviour of global capitalism ?

With the global economy bubbling frantically to solve its own crisis we new eruptions of class struggle occurring around the world further dips in the world economy have left many capitalist leaders wondering where they can turn next. For some time now many have discussed Africa as the greatest untapped mass of resources and are a capitalist heaven whoever gets their hands on it. "It is my firm belief that Africa represents the next global economic frontier, and I am not alone in that assessment." So said Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, to the US House foreign sub-committee on African Affairs on 17 April 2012. Carson is not alone in expressing growing optimism about Africa. As he also noted, the World Bank's projection of economic growth rates for Africa during the next two years is between 5% and 6%. This exceeds the figures expected for Latin America, Central Asia or Europe. The IMF's forecast for five years, beginning in 2011, has seven African countries - Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria - among the world's ten fastest growing economies. An analysis by the Economist last year reveals that six sub-Saharan African countries - Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique and Rwanda - were among the world's ten fastest growing economies over the ten years to 2010. Indeed, Africa has begun to draw positive remarks from capitalist commentators especially since the dawn of the global economic crisis. The worst capitalist crisis since the 1930s Great Depression, triggered in the United States and Europe, has apparently forced capitalist strategists to search elsewhere for a success story, and they have invented one in Africa. Africa has always been the basket case of the world global economy with mass poverty and with many people starving and living on less than 2 dollars a day. Yet this vast continent is seen as the next place to exploit not only its land but its people too. Leading capitalist media have suspended their characteristic bad press about the continent and now trumpet what are seen as 'positives'. A striking example of this can be found in the Economist where Africa metamorphosed from being the "Hopeless Continent", as in a May 2000 edition, to the "Hopeful Continent", which was the cover story in a December 2011 edition. However, most of these countries' high growth rate figures reflected a pick-up in raw material exports and price increases tied to the growth in global demand, especially from China. For instance, the price of crude oil rose from less than $20 a barrel in 1999 to $147 in 2008. Generally these statistics do not reflect any generalized growth in the economy or in living standards. Besides, any sustained slowdown in the West and China will see a sharp decline in the demand for Africa's exports. We are already seeing a decline in China’s growth and whether or not China will have a soft landing or a heavy landing remains to be seen. This will have catastrophic results in Africa as Chinese imperialism is pumping billions of dollars into Africa improving infrastructure but all with the aim to extract the natural resources Africa holds. It’s not all plain sailing though there is still mass poverty in Africa and capitalism and its leaders have no interest in helping this situation at all. To most working people, who have only seen their living conditions getting worse year in year out, the impressive figures of economic growth being thrown around seem magical. In fact, the huge increases in food and fuel prices mean a continued assault on living standards. Africa today reveals a continent blighted with mass poverty and restricted access to the basic needs of life. For example, in Ethiopia, a country on the 'golden list', 90% of the population was classified as "multidimensional poor" by a United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP) report in 2010. The situation in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer is also aptly described by the UNDP. Its representative in the country, Daouda Toured, correctly noted that "for almost a decade now, Nigeria has been recording consistently a high economic growth rate that has not produced commensurate employment opportunities and reduction in poverty among its citizens." He continued: "Available statistics suggest that the incidence of poverty in Nigeria had indeed worsened between 2004 and 2010" (The Nation, Lagos, 29 August 2012). South Africa, the continent's biggest economy, is the second most unequal country in the world. This is despite "black economic empowerment" driven by the ANC government in post-apartheid South Africa. In Angola, two-thirds of the population lives on less than €1 ($1.25) a day and only 25% of children are enrolled in primary schools (Guardian, London, 18 November 2011). This is the country which was the world's fastest growing economy, beating China into second position, in the decade to 2010. Presently, it acts as a safe haven for Portuguese capitalism, a poster boy of the eurozone crisis. In a classic case of reverse economic migration between Europe and Africa, Angola has not only attracted about 150,000 Portuguese escaping joblessness but has also heavily invested its petrol dollars in Portugal. All this is symptomatic of the situation in Africa where economic growth is reflected in the opulence of the thieving capitalist elite and not in infrastructural development or the living standards of ordinary people. But the capitalist strategists are not concerned about the fate of working people. In so far as there are natural resources to be exploited for super-profit, Africa is a bed of roses. This drive to super-exploit Africa explains why the continent, which is rich in natural resources and fertile lands for agriculture, is dominated by multinationals and run on the basis of capitalist neoliberal policies to benefit the imperialist west. The lack of, or primitive state of, necessary infrastructure has meant that Africa is still largely dependent on exports of primary commodities and only accounts for an abysmal 2% of world output. The so-called 'investors' are mainly interested in commodity and extractive industries which, although driving growth, create few jobs. This failure to develop manufacturing explains why Africa, a classic example of jobless growth, cannot emulate the role of China as an engine of global capitalism despite its huge population and growing urbanisation. On the contrary, capitalism will continue to leave the continent prostrate. With extracts taken from

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